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Crying out for ‘Patti’

Ben Rimalower stars his one-man show 'Patti Issues.' | PHOTO BY GUSTAVO MONROY

Ben Rimalower stars in his one-man show "Patti Issues." | PHOTO BY GUSTAVO MONROY

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‘Patti Issues’

◆ 8 p.m, Thursday, Friday

◆ Mary’s Attic, 5400 N. Clark

◆ $20


Updated: June 11, 2013 8:10PM

When one thinks of fierce, powerful women who have been embraced as icons of the gay community, you immediately think of gals like Cher, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. But Broadway legend Patti LuPone? Not so much.

Unless you’re actor, writer and director Ben Rimalower.

“There is no greater artist on stage than Patti LuPone,” he says “Granted, Patti isn’t like Madonna. Madonna can leave the house in sweats and still look good. Patti can’t put herself together enough to get photographed by paparazzi.”

A self-identified fan of the actress, Rimalower brings his one-man show “Patti Issues” to Mary’s Attic for two nights Thursday (sold out) and Friday.

“It’s an unlikely coming-out story in a way. It’s not my coming out; my sexuality is matter-of-fact. A lot of the story takes place around my father coming out, his difficult struggle and the collateral damage his decisions had on the family.”

Recordings and peformances of LuPone were a coping mechanism for Rimalower. And while many people have used musicals as escapism from the turmoil of their lives, Rimalower says his situation is unique.

“This show is about personal liberation and redemption. Patti LuPone is the catalyst for redemption.”

LuPone remains one of the most celebrated women in theater today with multiple Tony Awards (“Evita and “Gypsy”) and the ability to garner rave reviews for her performances in flops (“Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown” and “The Anarchist”). Her appearances at the Ravinia Festival are often the highlight of the season.

Though he was born in New York, Rimalower grew up in California, far from the lights of the Broadway stage.

“At an early age, I was mesmerized by Patti in the ‘Evita’ commercials,” he explains. “When the show toured L.A., they still used the same commercial with Patti. Patti singing ‘Buenos Aires’ and ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” are the siren songs of my early childhood.”

Rimalower also had the chance to work with his idol as an assistant director for “Sweeney Todd” and “A Little Night Music.”

“Not long into my professional relationship with her, I outed myself as one of her biggest fans at every turn.”

LuPone has seen the show and approves.

“She came to the second performance and I was shaking,” he says. “This was the first thing I had written and performed. Her approval, acceptance and respect mean more to me than anything in the world.”

And he wasn’t the only one. Both performer and audience were watching how LuPone would react that night. LuPone didn’t let them stew for very long, though.

“She has a great and distinctive laugh, and right at the beginning of the show she laughed out loud,” he recalls. “She bought into how I portray her as an over-the-top, straight shooter. That relaxed everyone including me. Patti is confident in her beliefs and she stands by her choices. She was glad I told the truth.”

Misha Davenport is a local free-lance writer.

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